More than half of the 60,000 children who fled the city when fighting broke out between a local armed group and government forces have not re-enrolled in school, while many of those who returned to the classroom can’t afford basic learning materials like uniforms, books and other school supplies.
There are classes that have more than doubled in size to compensate for the surge of new arrivals – some with up to 100 students.
“Tens of thousands of children are missing out on vital education because of the conflict in Marawi, and tragically, the longer they stay out of school, the less likely it is they’ll ever go back,” Save the Children Country Director in the Philippines, Ned Olney, said.
“This education crisis needs to be addressed urgently to ensure children do not fall permanently out of the school system. We know that school is the best place for children to be during conflict, providing an important sense of routine and protection from exploitation and abuse.”
More than 350,000 people fled Marawi after fighting broke out on 23 May , with most still living with relatives or sheltering in cramped evacuation centres, some of which are schools, in the vicinity of the besieged city.
Limited information is available on the damage to schools in Marawi, but the Department of Education recently indicated that at least 14 schools in the city have been destroyed, burnt or looted.
“Life is a daily struggle for those who fled Marawi, particularly the families who are now entering a fourth month living in evacuation centres,” Mr Olney said.
“Cramped facilities increase the risk of the spread of illnesses like diarrhoea, but it can also impact the emotional health of the displaced.”
Mr Olney warned that many children would need long-term support to deal with the emotional distress they have been through.
“The children who fled or experienced the bloodshed in Marawi are at risk of being permanently traumatised after repeatedly witnessing conflict and hearing horrifying stories about those who didn’t make it out,” he said.
Twelve-year-old Ameen fled Marawi city with his family when the fighting first broke out.
“My family and I hid somewhere in the corner of the kitchen,” he said. “We heard gunshots ... It was my first time to hear something like that. The following day, we evacuated.”
Now Ameen and his family are staying with relatives outside of Marawi, and are not sure when they’ll be able to return home, and how much damage there will be.
“I wish that houses in Marawi have not been destroyed,” Ameen said. “I hope everything will be okay and nothing gets burned.”
Save the Children has been responding to the crisis since it began and has set up 25 temporary learning spaces in host schools to help cope with the high number of new enrolments. It has also distributed 3,000 back-to-school kits for students, and is working with the Department of Education to deliver psychosocial support to teachers and children.
Call Alex Sampson on 0429 943 027 for interviews.